Update : 10th October 2016 – The new leader of Bridgend Council was announced on 5th October. Read more here.
Cllr. Mel Nott (Lab, Sarn) recently announced his intention to stand down as Bridgend Council leader on October 5th and subsequently stand down as a councillor at next year’s local elections. He’s been in the role since 2008 and, at age 73, this wasn’t exactly a shock announcement – with some grumbles behind the scenes about his leadership (or perhaps a sense of fatigue).
All things considered, lasting eight years in the role as leader is no small feat even if his record is somewhat unspectacular. The biggest milestones under his leadership have probably been the leisure service agreement with Halo (which has broadly been successful), significant school modernisations like Coleg y Dderwen and the – slightly odd – close relationship BCBC has built up with the armed forces.
He’s led the council through arguably its most difficult period since it was established in 1996, particularly in terms of budget cuts; but there have been occasions where he’s been a bit too hands off – particularly the controversial job evaluation circa 2010-2012 and stop-start Porthcawl regeneration.
Mel’s also perhaps been a bit too tribal (particularly when responding to criticisms of the council in the press) and there’ve been occasions when the Welsh Government should’ve been criticised but weren’t – no doubt because of the close working relationship between BCBC and the First Minister.
The race will now be on to find a successor, though BCBC’s ruling Labour group should avoid the problems currently experienced by the UK party. AFAIK there are no signs of a serious Corbynite-New Labour split amongst councillors; members are a different matter.
I’ve got no idea of the rules, but it’s worth speculating on some of the councillors who might be in the frame to take over. Whoever does so would be leading Labour into what could be an unexpectedly tough election next May, but still one where they’ll remain overwhelming favourites.
- Cllr. Huw David (Lab, Cefn Cribwr) – I suspect Huw will be favourite if not a shoo-in. He’s currently Deputy Leader and I think he’s also been the cabinet member responsible for schools for a while, so he has quite a bit of experience behind him. The Cefn Cribwr ward is very safe, which is particularly useful, but it will be vulnerable to a boundary change as it’s a small ward. Would risk being seen as a “continuity candidate”.
- Cllr. Charles Smith (Lab, Llangewydd & Brynhyfred) – Academic who was convincingly elected via a by-election in 2013. One of the few Bridgend councillors who’s a keen user of social media and seems to have Corbynite sympathies. Has ruffled a few feathers in a short space of time – particularly Bridgend Town Council – as cabinet member responsible for economic development. A bit too reminiscent of Jeff Jones, perhaps?
- Cllr. Martyn Jones (Lab, Bettws) – If I remember correctly, Martyn unsuccessfully stood against Mel Nott in the annual Labour leadership confirmation/election last year. If he runs he could be seen as an“anti-establishment” candidate as he was amongst the six councillors suspended for their opposition to plans to merge Bridgend with Vale of Glamorgan. Also another councillor in a safe seat.
- Cllr. Ceri Reeves (Lab, Maesteg West) – Current cabinet member for communities. Has perhaps damaged her chances following “issues” during her bid to be selected for the Ogmore Westminster vacancy earlier this year, but was put on Labour’s South Wales West regional list for the Assembly. Clearly has ambitions for higher office and this might be her last chance to achieve that. Another safe seat too, though I expect Plaid Cymru to put up a bit more of a fight in the Llynfi Valley next May.
- Cllr. Phil White (Lab, Caerau) – Current cabinet member for adult social services and well being, which is a particularly complicated portfolio. One problem is that although Caerau is currently a clean sweep for Labour (3 seats) it hasn’t always been. Seems like he would be a safe pair of hands.
- Cllr. Hailey Townsend (Lab, Brackla) – Probably a decade too soon to make a serious run at the leadership, but she’s clearly being groomed for bigger things having risen quickly to the cabinet, presently being responsible for children’s social services and equalities. If she did run, it would be a statement of intent with regard including more young people and women in local politics.
The way Bridgend Council and Labour operates, it’s unlikely anyone outside Labour will know what’s happening until the final decision itself. Of course, when there’s a shortlist, white smoke coming out of Council HQ or anything else along those those lines I’ll post an update.